Ben Gedeon, listed as 6'3, 215ish, committed to Michigan earlier this week, after taking a visit to Stanford this past weekend. He becomes the 17th commitment in a stacked 2013 class. He's a four star player across the board, and holds a rather impressive offer list, which included some of the top schools in the midwest; Ohio State, Penn State (LB U no more, perhaps), Michigan, and (of late) Michigan State.
In order to fully appreciate this most recent commitment, I thought I'd put Michigan fans in a time capsule. Think back with me, ALL the way back to the 2009 season. The starting linebackers for Michigan included a former RB, a former S, and another former bust at SS (I'll just consider the 'deathbacker' position part of the defensive line, for the moment). Providing depth behind them were walk-ons, and more safeties. The young bodies on the campus, that were sure to one day take over the spots? Isaiah Bell, although he was an UA All American, was another former safety. Brandin Hawthorne, who played WLB at Pahokee, but was 6', 197 lbs. And in the following year's class? Well, Jake Ryan looked promising. But other than that? Davion Rogers, a skinny DE/LB from Ohio. Carvin Johnson, Josh Furman, and Marvin Robinson, all safeties, had their names batted around as future LBs. At that time, Michigan only really had 2 born and bred LBs on the roster, IMO- Kenny Demens and JB Fitzgerald.
Now, fast forward to the present. Although WLB remains a question, we'll have at least 2 recruits, one an Army All-American in James Ross, coming in this summer to push the two-deep. SLB is, perhaps, the position of strength on the defense, and MLB isn't far behind. Last year, we signed four true LBs, 3 of which were All-Americans to someone or another. This year, we already have one athletic prospect that garners top-50 level status nationally, as well as Ben Gedeon, another top-250 caliber player. This certainly isn't an intended shot at RR and his staff, I'm growing rather tired of those. Those were the players he chose to recruit. But personally, LB is one of my favorite positions to follow. It's quite refreshing to be done with the days of 'hybrid projects', and on to more traditional, solid options.
Anyway, on to the breakdown. Gedeon first popped up on the radar of Michigan fans at last year's June camp in Ann Arbor, walking away with an offer. He followed that up with offers from Penn State, Tennessee, Boston College, and Northwestern after camping around during the summer. That would have been your first sign of his elite athleticism; coaches were offering him based on his athleticism alone, since most of these camps are without pads. It's a bit of a leap of faith for a coach to offer a linebacker without seeing his physicality, and they must be provided with a significant incentive to overcome the fear of whiffing on a prospect. Gedeon would follow that up with an offer from Michigan State in the fall, and then Ohio State once Urban Meyer took over. A few other elite academic schools, like UVA and Stanford, would also hop on board. Stanford ended up providing the most significant challenge for Gedeon. Rumors flew around here and there, but Gedeon was widely considered to be a heavy Michigan lean throughout the process.
While I agree with Ace's assessment that Gedeon would best fit at the WLB position, I don't agree with his statement that he's too 'small' for the MLB or SLB positions. Most recent evaluations of Gedeon have him pegged to be around 6'3, 215-220ish. Joe Bolden stepped on campus at 6'3, 225. He's athletic enough to compete for a spot at WLB, but the coaches don't see that huge of a difference between the WLB and MLB positions. From the most recent Mattison press conference:
I don’t look at the WILL and the MIKE being anything different. I think they’re all linebackers in there. The WILL and the MIKE are really the same position, it’s just one’s closer to the tight end and one’s not
That's why I don't think it's hard to envision him potentially sliding over to MLB at some point in his career. Still, I'll attempt to project his playing time at the WILL. Desmond Morgan will likely start the season off as the starter, although he could be heavily pushed by James Ross or Antonio Poole, both in their first year of eligibility. Assuming that Ross doesn't redshirt (which I don't think he will), and one of those two eventually replaces Morgan (whether it's this year, or 3 years down the road when he graduates), it would be in Gedeon's best interest to redshirt (not that it's his choice) and establish two years between himself and those two. Then, he could compete for the job during his redshirt junior year, while potentially working his way into the two-deep before that.
My excitement from this commitment stems mainly from my point made in the first few paragraphs-he is, quite simply, a linebacker in the purest sense. There are little holes to his game, sure. For example, I don't think he has the same lateral agility as someone like Royce Jenkins-Stone or James Ross. And, like Ross, he has a tendency to hit without driving through the tackle with his feet. However, there's not much else not to like. He has a good, if not elite, burst that makes him a thumping hitter. His versatility has allowed him certain insights into the minds of the offense that other linebackers lack. If I had done Rivals rankings, I might even flip the positions that they have McCray and Gedeon. He's passionate, athletic, and a seemingly humble young man. I think he'll fit well into the culture that Brady Hoke is creating.
So there you have it, folks. You may not see Gedeon's name for a few years, but when you do, big things will be happening. He's a well-grounded, intensely gifted young linebacker with a bright future ahead of him. With his commitment, the linebacker position is almost certainly filled with the exception of VA LB E.J. Levenberry, whose window to commit may be quickly closing. As always, thanks for reading!